Ten must-see sites for France’s ‘Heritage days’

Ten must-see sites for France’s 'Heritage days'
Here's 10 things not to miss for this weekend's 'Journées du Patrimoine'. Photo: AFP
Once a year France opens the doors on tonnes of fascinating, bizarre and important places that are generally closed to the public. Here are 10 things not to miss this weekend for ‘Heritage days’.

For the most part free of charge, some 10 million people will get a chance poke around inside some of the country's most interesting sites this weekend (Sept. 21-22) as part of the annual heritage days (Journées du Patrimoine).

While it may be interesting to get a look at some of the popular attractions like the Senate and the Elysée Palace (the president’s home), there are a string of odd and incredible sites to take in as well.

Here are 10 fascinating places not to miss for this year’s Jounées du Patrimoine (Heritage days):

World’s oldest basketball court: Designed by one of Gustave Eiffel’s architecture students, the court hosted Europe’s first basketball game in 1893.

It is now considered the world’s oldest. At the YMCA on Rue de Trévise in Paris’s 9th arrondissement.

France’s first nuke reactor: "La pile Zoé" was built in record time and activated in 1948 on the grounds of a fort as the country’s first atomic reactor. 

It was shut down in 1977, so to take advantage of a rare visit, head to the Route du Panorama, in Fontenay-aux-Roses, outside of Paris.

Hidden clocktower: Towering some 67 metres above the ground, and with its four dials measuring 6.5 metres across, the clock offers an impressive view over the French capital. 

At the Gare de Lyon train station on Place Louis Armand in Paris’s 12th arrondissement.

Parisian bunker: Built to protect French fighters at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, and stretching 75 metres underground, at Les Grandes Friches you will be able to experience the eerie feel of walking in one of the concrete bunkers still hidden in the Notre-Dame forest.

It's in Forêt Notre-Dame in Lésigny, ouside of Paris.

Archeology up close: Excavated since 1964, the Pincevent site has become particularly known for its early modern human remains, such as stone artifacts, found there.

It's near the town of Montereau-Fault-Yonne.

Secret garden: Take a step back in time by visiting the Ferme Mazier that used to provide Paris’s main markets with cabbage, beetroots, carrots and other vegetables.

Described as an oasis in  the city, it can be found on Rue Heurtault and Rue Edgar-Quinet in Aubervilliers, outside of Paris.

Creepy museum: This Hôpital Saint-Louis – Musée des Moulages Dermatologiques (Dematalogical Museum) hosts four collections of nauseatingly realistic wax casts of different types of skin diseases.

The museum, which is located on Avenue Claude-Vellefaux in Paris’s 10th arrondissement, has more than 4,800 casts.

Water temple: Built between the 16th and 17th centuries, and extended during the 18th, these Roman-style underground aqueducts provide a fascinating look at how human's have tried to make sure they have enough water.

This one's on Rue de la Fontaine in Mennecy.

Vintage Citroëns: If you’re a car buff, what better place to spend the day than at the Citroën museum? 

Hosting more than 300 rare cars with makes dating as far back as 1919, including the Paris-Dakar Race winner ZX Rallye Raid. At PSA Peugeot Citroën, Bâtiment Conservatoire, on Boulevard André-Citroën in Aulnay-sous-Bois.

Don't forget this visit requires you to reserve a spot

PMs offices: Where does French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his cabinet hang out all day? 

Find out by walking around the Hôtel de Matignon located on Rue de Varenne in Paris’s 7th arrondissment.

By : Louise Nordstrom

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